Comment: Mobile Wallets - Can IT withstand the strain?
For the retail industry, the adoption of mobile technology is one of the biggest challenges it has faced for some time. By Chris Livesey VP at Borland.While the development of e-commerce has already considerably tested the business models of many traditional retailers, the use of smartphones to search, compare and buy goods online has taken this one step further. Consumers are increasingly open to the idea of using their handsets as mobile wallets with IDC Financial Insights predicting that purchasing through mobiles will top $1 trillion worldwide by 2017.
Retailers are well aware of the trend and are adopting the technology associated with mobile payments. However, with the growing ubiquity of mobile payments and the challenges associated with integrating this technology with existing systems, retail CIOs face the added pressure of making sure existing IT infrastructures are compatible and can withstand the demands that mobile can place on systems.
In the competitive retail environment, organisations need to be confident that systems are working 100 per cent of the time. As technology has evolved, different retail departments have adopted technologies on a needs basis; this has resulted in a multitude of different IT systems working in silos to address a variety of business demands. For example, it’s not usual for a loyalty system to be housed and maintained by a marketing department instead of IT. However, with the advent of the mobile wallet, these silos will not work - loyalty, rewards and payment applications will need to be centrally linked up so that they can seamlessly work together via mobile devices.
Retailers typically have systems that sit across mainframes, distributed and even cloud environments. The end result is that CIOs face IT infrastructures that look more like a spider’s web of applications than a streamlined and coordinated system.
The increasing complexity of IT infrastructures therefore requires careful management of all systems to ensure that they work together effectively. For CIOs to address these challenges they need to have a holistic overview of all their IT systems. In order to outline the disparities between applications, adopting a requirements-led approach to planning, implementation development and measurement that will enable CIOs to identify, track and make sure compatibility is not an issue when implementing new features like the mobile wallet.
With close to 90 NFC (the key contactless technology for mobile wallets) enabled mobile devices available in the market today, IT systems need to also be able to handle the surge that mobile wallets will bring to retailer systems. The mobile wallet enables the collection of valuable data to create customer interaction opportunities for retailers, marketers and advertisers. These interactions can include in-store customer loyalty programmes, vouchers, or location based services for customers. For example, with an NFC-enabled mobile phone or a phone with a QR code reader app, a customer can tap a poster or product label to view promotional and product information as well as offers and complimentary items for cross selling.
CIOs need to make sure their systems are able to withstand high amounts of traffic at peak periods, as well as meeting the higher user experience people expect from their mobile devices. On a technical level, they need to make sure development will be guaranteed to fulfil the requirements of the business and its customers. It must also perform consistently, even at its busiest times.
The solution to stress or performance challenge is continuous testing, and is well proven - although often comes at what seems to be an initially high cost. Cloud-based performance testing is an alternative which significantly reduces both the initial and ongoing costs - without compromising on any of the rigour that is required to ensure availability in even the most extreme performance scenarios.
By allowing test teams to instantly deploy existing performance test scripts to cloud-based load generators, the load is created on pre-configured systems provisioned in the cloud. This eliminates the effort and cost related to extending the on-premise test infrastructure which only the highest-load scenarios would need.
In addition, these cloud-based services also provide a diagnosis of any performance problems which are encountered; giving teams the detailed diagnostics they need to identify the nature and location of the potential problems. Combined with an on-premise performance monitor, it is straightforward to understand the demands on the server infrastructure in the data centre, providing end-to-end transparency.
With the retail industry struggling to stay afloat in the present economy, an ability to innovate and meet the growing expectations of consumers will be vital to retain a competitive edge in a globalised, 24/7 market. Therefore, an agile and efficient IT infrastructure that is able to cope with present day demands remains an important focus as well as a challenge for retailers. Adopting new technologies like mobile wallets or payment systems not only means staying ahead of the competition but also highlights the importance of making sure everything works, all the time as failures or incompatibilities have the potential of harming the brand and the bottom line.
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